Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 15 October 2019

Pentagon chief says $1bn of funding shifted to border wall

US President Donald Trump declared a national emergency last month

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 1, 2017 a Homeland Security border patrol officer rides an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) past prototypes of US President Donald Trump's proposed border wall in San Diego, California. The Pentagon notified the US Congress on March 25, 2019 that it has authorised $1 billion for new border wall construction at the US-Mexico border. / AFP / FREDERIC J. BROWN
(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 1, 2017 a Homeland Security border patrol officer rides an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) past prototypes of US President Donald Trump's proposed border wall in San Diego, California. The Pentagon notified the US Congress on March 25, 2019 that it has authorised $1 billion for new border wall construction at the US-Mexico border. / AFP / FREDERIC J. BROWN

The US Department of Defence shifted $1 billion to plan and build a 91-kilometre section of "pedestrian fencing", roads and lighting along the border between the US and Mexico, the Pentagon chief said on Monday.

Last week, the Pentagon gave Congress a list that included $12.8 billion of construction projects for which it said funds could be redirected for construction along the US-Mexico border.

US President Donald Trump declared a national emergency last month in a bid to fund his promised border wall without congressional approval.

Acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan said in a memo to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen that the Department of Defence had the authority to support counter-narcotics activities near international boundaries.

Mr Shanahan authorised the US Army Corps of Engineers to begin planning and executing the project that would involve building more than 90km of 5.4-metre-high fencing, constructing and improving roads, and installing lighting within the Yuma and El Paso sections of the US-Mexico border.

The acting defense secretary cited a federal law that he said gives the Pentagon broad authority to build infrastructure "across international boundaries of the United States in support of counter-narcotic activities of federal law enforcement agencies".

The statement was released a day before Mr Shanahan was due to testify in Congress to present and defend the Pentagon's draft budget.

The White House has laid out an ambitious 2020 budget proposal which contains $8.6 billion in new wall funding, above the $5.7 billion Trump sought for this year.

Frustrated by Congress's refusal to provide the budget he wanted, Mr Trump declared a national emergency last month.

The White House has signaled it will seek to repurpose some $6 billion from military funds, without specifying which Pentagon programs would be slashed.

The move drew condemnation from both the president's rival Democrats and fellow Republicans, who warned it was an abuse of presidential powers and created a dangerous precedent.

Mr Trump has made border security an over-arching domestic issue and says it will remain at the center of the agenda in his 2020 reelection bid.

Although there has been a surge in arrival of families and children at the border, overall apprehensions at the frontier are down substantially from a decade or more ago.

Updated: March 26, 2019 03:37 PM

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